Back in July, I started rethinking my optics choices for a self-defense rifle (Rethinking My (Rifle) Optic Choices). The concern, was that a Low Powered Variable Optic (LPVO) while an exceptionally good choice for a combat weapon may not be the best choice for a home defense rifle. By nature a rifle used for home defense would be, almost without exception, used for close quarters encounters. and the optic should be optimized for that role.
By September I made the decision to not only change the optic but to change the rifle underneath it as well (Rifle Optic Choices – Rethought). For home defense, a short barreled rifle (actually a pistol by US law) would be better than a full length carbine (10.5″ barrel vs. 16″). I decided to stay with 5.56/.233 as the primary caliber. Reduced penetration through barriers and effectiveness at the ranges involved contributed to that decision. The optic is an open reflex sight with a large “dot in donut” reticle.
This thinking was all well and good but pretty worthless until tested out. So, off to the range I went.
The first step was to zero the new optic. I zeroed the optic at 25 yards which would be the longest shot possible on my suburban property. The zeroing process was smooth and trouble free (other than the tiny little holes this caliber makes. I needed a spotting scope even at that distance to get the job done. The range I went to was not equipped to allow me to test the zero at shorter distances than 25 yards but I was able to push it out to 50 and 100 yards. In both cases (and surprisingly) it hit a little high at both distances. Not enough to require me to compensate on center mass shots but for head shots I would have to adjust point of aim a bit.
The next step was function testing the new upper receiver (actually these happened simultaneously). I was initially surprised because although it was functional the bolt didn’t seem to be moving as it should. I pulled it apart and took a look and realized it was user error. The upper was not lubricated at the factory and I had not oiled it either. A few drops of oil from out of the range bag and everything was working perfectly. Several hundred rounds later, there were still no issues. I would always like to send more rounds downrange but I think we can call this one good to go.
In terms of performance for its intended purpose, yes, it is much faster for target acquisition at close quarters. Yes, it is easier to run the gun at those distances with both eyes open. So, for this specific use case, home defense, this is definitely a superior solution.
I did bring my 16″ carbine topped with a LPVO out to the range with me as well so I could run them side by side.
At longer distances the LPVO was definitely the superior choice. If I were in need of a “battle rifle” for use in “the field” I believe this would be my preferred configuration. The longer barrel of the carbine gives better performance. The LPVO would allow me to make reliable hits on chest sized targets out to 200 yards and minute of man hits out to 300 yards.
Fortunately, (current) US gun laws are such that I can keep both and grab the one that would be most useful depending on the situation.
Take care and God bless.